A systematic review of the impacts of intergenerational engagement on older adults' cognitive, social, and health outcomes

Krzeczkowska, Anna and Spalding, David M. and McGeown, William J. and Gow, Alan J. and Carlson, Michelle C. and Nicholls, Louise A. Brown (2021) A systematic review of the impacts of intergenerational engagement on older adults' cognitive, social, and health outcomes. Ageing Research Reviews, 71. 101400. ISSN 1568-1637 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2021.101400)

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Background: Intergenerational engagement could benefit health and wellbeing within an ageing population. This systematic review evaluated the impacts of intergenerational engagement on cognitive, social, and health outcomes in healthy older adults and older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Research Design and Methods: Comprehensive literature searches were undertaken, with records filtered according to pre-registered criteria. Study quality was formally assessed, and a narrative synthesis of the findings produced. Results: Forty-four studies were reviewed. Regarding quantitative evidence, 4 out of 8 studies found significant intergenerational engagement effects on cognitive outcomes, 15 of 24 on social outcomes, and 21 of 31 on health-related outcomes. Qualitative evidence was also important for understanding perceived impacts and experiences of intergenerational programmes. Only 11 studies fully met criteria for high quality research, of which the majority focused on social outcomes. Discussion and Implications: There are a range of potential benefits of intergenerational engagement, most notably regarding anxiety, generativity, cross-age attitudes, and physical activity. However, heterogeneity in programme context, sample design, dosage, and duration indicate that more research is required to enable wider implementation and generalisability. Scientific rigour in both quantitative and qualitative research should also be employed as far as possible, to provide the highest quality evidence.